Wauconda is ready.
After losing to Sterling in last year's Class 3A supersectional at Judson University, the Bulldogs' softball team has been on a mission all season to get back to that Elite Eight level and beyond, and if they continue to play like they did Saturday, their fans might just need some reservations in East Peoria for Father's Day weekend.
Sophomore Kayla Wedl fired a 4-hitter with 13 strikeouts and no walks in posting her 20th win of the season as Wauconda upended Cary-Grove, 4-1, at the Chicago Bandits High School Jamboree in Rosemont.
"Kayla was really on today," said Wauconda coach Tim Rennels. "Her movement was on and she pitched a really nice game.
"We're ready. The girls are all playing their roles and we got some great 4A competition this week with Lake Zurich and Cary-Grove. We don't want a letdown."
Wauconda (25-8) is the No. 1 overall seed in the Class 3A Ridgewood sectional and will open the postseason against either Johnsburg or Chicago North Grand on Wednesday at the Elmwood Park regional. It's the beginning of a journey Wedl hopes goes a little deeper than last year's Elite Eight run.
"We want to get to state and try to win a title," she said.
The Bulldogs broke a scoreless tie Saturday in the top of the third inning. No. 9 hitter Alyssa Wagner drew a leadoff walk, Wedl singled and Taylor McCarthy reached on a fielder's choice that forced Wedl at second and sent Wagner to third. Paige Motley then bounced a bad-hop single past third base to score Wagner and after a grounder back to the circle, freshman Sarah Ricci laced a 2-run single to right-center field to give Wauconda a 3-0 lead, more than enough when Wedl has her good stuff working as she did Saturday.
"I was just thinking I need to get these runs in because it was early in the game and we needed a cushion," said Ricci, who was 2-for-3 on the day. "It definitely helped Kayla out."
The Trojans (18-13) got a run back in the bottom of the fourth when Brianne Prank launched a long triple to right and scored on Lisa Semro's two-out double off the base of the fence in left. But Wedl, who now has 280 strikeouts and only 14 walks this season, set the last 10 Cary-Grove batters down in order, seven of them by strikeout.
"Everything was working today," Wedl said. "Coach was calling good pitches and (the Trojans) were swinging. Once we get one (run) I'm fine. I like more than one but once we get one I'm fine. It gives you room to throw more things and work the count."
Wauconda added an insurance run in the top of the seventh. Wedl led off with a walk, Motley stroked a one-out single that turned into a two-base error in the outfield and Alex Steffens' sacrifice fly scored Wedl to make it 4-1.
"When you don't play on turf it's always an experience," said Cary-Grove coach Tammy Olson, whose team hosts a Class 4A regional and plays Crystal Lake South in a Wednesday semifinal. "Lisa and Bri did a great job in that (fourth inning) and I was happy with the hitters who made adjustments but Wedl pitched a nice game."
Lauren Stanley (5-2) took the loss for the Trojans in relief of starter Amanda DeGroote.